The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Ironies of 2007

Robert Heinlein, the renowned science fiction writer, once quipped, “The supreme irony of life is that hardly anyone gets out of it alive.” I’ll humbly add that hardly anyone could have gotten through 2007 without a sense of irony. Let’s examine some of the many ironies of 2007.

Although 2008 is a presidential election year, 2007 was the year of the primary race, a time when inevitability was fashionable, “change” was the operative stump concept, and the knives of dirty politics were sharpened for use in 2008. The irony of the presidential nomination process is two fold. First, that the best and the brightest lack the masochistic tendencies (not to mention the utter chutzpa) required to crisscross the country raising money, criticizing your opponents, and suggesting facile, poll-driven solutions to intractable problems. Second, that the vaunted momentum required to become a party’s presidential candidate is provided by two scarcely populated, mostly rural, mostly Caucasian (94.9% in Iowa and 96.1% in NH) states that are truly unrepresentative of the attitudes and desires of an increasingly urban America.

Even before the primary season began, the Democrats, basking in the glow of a congressional election victory, told us all that they would clean-up the mess that was Washington, that “special interests” would not hold sway, that the Iraq War—a catastrophe in their eyes—would come to an end. Backed by a left-leaning MSM, the newly elected Congressional leadership, exemplified by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, all but declared defeat in Iraq and demanded that our troops be withdrawn immediately. At the time, I thought that the crush of public opinion would precipitate a calamitous withdrawal, that President Bush would cave as his popularity plummeted, with all of the ruinous unintended consequences that would have accrued as a result.

Ironically, instead of removing troops he increased their numbers. The resulting “surge” worked. Although it’s far too early to declare victory, it’s reasonable to assert that significant successes have been achieved over the past year. Ironically, as successes mounted, media coverage of Iraq (measured in minutes broadcast or column inches written) fell by almost 50 percent. Curious, given how interested the MSM was when car bombs and IEDs were the norm.

And as the anti-War fervor gained momentum in mid-year, we listened to more than a few argue that the US is turning into a “fascist” state in which our freedoms are being threatened by a nefarious government cabal. Of course every person who makes these claims continues to make them, again and again. Ironically, their freedoms remain intact. They proudly “speak ‘truth’ to power” and preen as they lounge on top of their self-defined moral plateau. The irony is that the “power” they confront is benign. They take no risks is confronting it and that makes their delusional ranting all the more pathetic.

It’s equally amusing to observe the irony exhibited by those on the far-Right who (justifiably) revile Islamists for fundamentalist acts that threaten lives and dramatically limit freedom, Ironically, those on the far-Right who defend Creationist science (oops, excuse me, I should have said ‘intelligent design’) practice a form of fundamentalism. I’m sure the Taliban would be pleased. Like the Islamists, they substitute “belief” and “faith” for rational thought, and the result in never good.

The recent National Intelligence Estimate—suggesting that Iran had stopped its quest for nuclear weapons—was, in its own way, a poster child for irony. In an earlier post I noted:
It seems interesting to me that virtually every MSM source and all politicians who were, with hindsight, appalled by intelligence failures before the Iraq war, now appear to embrace the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) “high confidence” estimate that Iran has terminated its nuclear weapons program. It appears that like Bush and Chaney, who used earlier estimates to fit their own political agenda, the MSM and the Left appear now to embrace this NIE because it fits their political agenda. Two wrongs, don’t make it right.

And who can forget the irony of the latest installment of “Peace Theater” – the Mid-East summit held late in 2007. The irony is that otherwise sensible people like Condi Rice appear oblivious to the irony that promises in the Middle East mean nothing – nothing! In an earlier post , I wrote:
When dealing in Middle Eastern politics, words are meaningless, but actions do matter. For example, that great Palestinian “moderate,” Mahmoud Abbas said just yesterday that “everyone wants peace” in the region. But what actions has Abbas initiated to achieve that goal? Has he reigned in terrorist groups within his own Fatah faction? Hardly. Has he confronted Hamas in any meaningful way? Negative. Has he moderated his Arabic speeches to lay the ground work for Palestinian concessions that will be vital to peace? Nope. Has he hinted in Western media that his people are even willing to make any concessions? Uh uh. Actions are what matter.

On the Israeli side, actions have occurred repeatedly, but they never seem to be quite enough. Have the Israelis unilaterally given back land to the Palestinans? As an example, Gaza comes to mind, and look how that turned out.

On a truly global scale, who can resist the irony of Al Gore’s cinematic career topped off with a Nobel Prize. Wow. Here we have a non-scientist, quoting flawed climate models, and misinterpreting ambiguous data telling real scientists who disagree with his conclusion that they are “deniers,” that the debate has ended, that a true consensus has already been reached. Here we have a private-jet-traveling, 20,000-square-foot-house-owning aristocrat telling the rest of us about sacrifice, while he banks imaginary carbon credits to assuage his profligacy. Uh huh.

The real ironies? That the signatories of the Kyoto protocols have done far less to cut carbon emissions than the US, even though we refused to sign the flawed document (by a Senate vote of 95 to 0, by the way). That Draconian measures to reduce carbon emissions would hurt the world’s poorest nations and would retard their efforts to enter a 21st century economy. That (paraphrasing an earlier comment) substituting “belief” and “faith” for scientific thought is wrong, whether it’s coming from the left or the right.

And finally, we encounter the irony of a Republican administration, along with Republican contenders for the presidency, all of whom tout their expertise in national security, completely missing our most important national security strategy. Again, in 2007, as in the 30 years that have preceded it, we have no meaningful program to gain energy independence. We encounter the irony of a struggling US carmaker, GM, refusing to accelerate its program for plug-in hybrid vehicles. We have a Congress that talks the talk, but does almost nothing to encourage short term fixes and longer term energy advancements. We have a populace who refuses to recognize that pain is necessary, but the end result will be worth it.

The broad irony of 2007—and every other year—is that we all recognize that we live in a global community and that we should care about what happens in China, Sudan, Iraq, Germany, Indonesia, Iran and everywhere else. But at the same time, we just want to be left alone to live our lives, love our family, do our work, and believe what we believe – without threat, without stress, without concern

The old Chinese curse comes to mind: “May you live in interesting times?” We do.

Friday, December 28, 2007


Over the next few weeks, we’ll all hear and read thousands of words that condemn Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s regime and canonize Benazir Bhutto as a liberal democrat who would have had the best chance to “bring democracy” to her forlorn country. It may be that Bhutto will accomplish more in death than she would have in life—if, and it’s a big if, her assassination results in a popular movement against Islamofascists in Pakistan.

Andrew MacCarthy takes a contrarian view, noting that the problem that the West faces isn’t Musharraf himself, but a near majority of the populace who are sympathetic to Islamists. He notes that a “recent CNN poll showed that 46 percent of Pakistanis approve of Osama bin Laden.”

Could Bhutto have somehow changed public opinion? Possibly, but Islamofascists have been characteristically unwilling to moderate their views. McCarthy discusses the situation:
In Pakistan, it is the [Musharraf] regime that propounds Western values, such as last year’s reform of oppressive, Sharia-based Hudood laws, which made rape virtually impossible to prosecute — a reform enacted despite furious fundamentalist rioting that was, shall we say, less well covered in the Western press. The regime, unreliable and at times infuriating, is our only friend. It is the only segment of Pakistani society capable of confronting militant Islam — though its vigor for doing so is too often sapped by its own share of jihadist sympathizers.

Yet, we’ve spent two months pining about its suppression of democracy — its instinct not further to empower the millions who hate us. For the United States, the question is whether we learn nothing from repeated, inescapable lessons that placing democratization at the top of our foreign policy priorities is high-order folly.

The transformation from Islamic society to true democracy is a long-term project. It would take decades if it can happen at all. Meanwhile, our obsessive insistence on popular referenda is naturally strengthening — and legitimizing — the people who are popular: the jihadists. Popular elections have not reformed Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon. Neither will they reform a place where Osama bin Laden wins popular opinion polls and where the would-be reformers are bombed and shot at until they die.

We don’t have the political will to fight the war on terror every place where jihadists work feverishly to kill Americans. And, given the refusal of the richest, most spendthrift government in American history to grow our military to an appropriate war footing, we may not have the resources to do it.

But we should at least stop fooling ourselves. Jihadists are not going to be wished away, rule-of-lawed into submission, or democratized out of existence. If you really want democracy and the rule of law in places like Pakistan, you need to kill the jihadists first. Or they’ll kill you, just like, today, they killed Benazir Bhutto.

It is, in fact, a noble sentiment to encourage democracy throughout the Moslem world—a place where true democracy is quite rare indeed. But past history seems to indicate that it may be “high-order folly,” particularly when we expect instant gratification and ram the democratic process down the collective throat of a country that may not be ready for it. In today’s Pakistan it could very well result in an Islamist-led government—and that’s not in the West’s interest, no matter how you look at it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Inquisitors

Mark Steyn is a widely-read Canadian journalist who is a regular contributor to print media, the blogosphere, and is the author of two books. Because they believe Steyn’s most recent book is “flagrantly Islamophobic,” the Canadian Islamic Congress has brought suit against Stein before Canada’s Human Rights Commission (HRC). The HRC is not a court of law, and rules of due process do not apply. The plaintiff’s action, in this case the CIC, is paid for by taxpayer dollars. The defendant, Steyn, must mount a defense out of pocket. It’s worthwhile noting that a “defendant” who has appeared before the Canadian Human Rights Commission has never been vindicated, never.

The case is summarized by Hilary White :
The case that has garnered the attention of Canada's mainstream media is that brought by the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) against popular conservative columnist Mark Steyn and Maclean's, Canada's foremost news magazine. Maclean's published an excerpt, headlined "The Future Belongs to Islam," from Steyn's bestselling book "America Alone" in which he predicts a coming clash between an increasingly aggressive Islamic minority in Europe and the shrinking remnants of European post-Christian social values.

The CIC complained to the Human Rights Commission of "exposing Canadian Muslims to hatred and Islamophobia". A representative of the group claims the complaint is intended to "protect Canadian multiculturalism and tolerance" …

"The Canadian Human Rights Commission, though, has the power to embroil Steyn and Maclean's in paperwork, to force them to pay for legal representation in this process, and even the power to fine them and force them to agree to terms satisfactory to the CIC. The CIC's real goal seems to be not justice or the pursuit of truth, but the abolition of public discourse that is critical of Islam."

Freedom of the press? Freedom of expression? Never mind. It’s more important to conform to an arbitrary set of rules that insists that certain topics are completely off limits. That legitimate, reasoned criticism or commentary is unacceptable.

Of course, the strategy of groups like the CIC (or CAIR in the United States) is clear. Any criticism, even the most reasoned, is branded as “Islamophobic.” The written word, something that is protected in both Canada and the United States, is no longer sacrosanct. Human rights inquisitors are on the prowl and are being used as weapons by those who often support entities that are among the worst violators of human rights.

It appears that our freedoms are being used to erode our freedoms. Our tolerance is used as a weapon by those who exhibit very little tolerance themselves.

Interestingly, almost nothing about this case has appeared in the NYT, the LAT, the Boston Globe, the WaPo and other great defenders of journalism and the written word. CNN, the broadcast networks, MSNBC and others have been silent. Odd.

Maybe it’s because Canada is far removed from the United States. Or maybe its because the same defenders of journalism and the written word are also proponents of politicial correctness, and the Steyn case is a case study in political correctness run amuck.

But not to worry, it couldn’t happen here, could it?

Thursday, December 20, 2007


There’s a smug certainty among those on the fringe of the angry-Left who are convinced, absolutely convinced, that the United States is a quasi-fascist, hegemonic power that suppresses human rights, imprisons dissenters, encourages “corporate greed,” conducts fraudulent elections, allows religion to suppress secular rule … among many “crimes.”

Bill Whittle provides a point-by-point response to a 14-point indictment of our country by someone named "american"—a card carrying member of the fringe. American is convinced that he/she is right and suggests that anyone who disagrees should ask the question “Have you considered the possibility yet that you might be ignorant American redneck hillbilly fascist?”

Whittle's response “A Brief Lesson in Elementary Self Defense” is worthwhile reading for anyone who subscribes, even in part, to the unabashedly anti-American accusations noted above.

After demolishing the accusations (and the author) Whittle summarizes:
Many people hear or read something like “american’s” rant and think that because it is structured and literate there must be something to it. How many college students today, when presented with such nonsense, would read it and think that they are approaching the days of a Nazi state?


Damn it! Lots of them would. Why? Because, like the 9/11 conspiracy “troofers,” no one bothers to call these people out. Thinking about this response took half again as long as actually typing it did: which is to say a few minutes. That is because I know how far from reality this diatribe is. These are things I think about every day, and likely, so do you. Realizing from scratch that his point was absurd, the specifics were easy.

We can no longer afford to let this anti-American garbage pass unchallenged. As a kind and secure people, we tend to let a lot of this go under the bridge, but this kind of crap gets more and more traction, and those days I think must come to an end for a while.

You can hear watered-down versions of the accusations Whittle rebuts regularly voiced by Hollywood glitterati, talking heads in the MSM (MSNBC's Keith Obermann comes to mind) and a variety of op-ed writers (the NYT's Paul Krugman comes to mind) in the MSM. It’s worth considering a rational, albeit angry, response. Read the whole thing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Moral Plateau

Before all of the facts have been determined and prior to the conclusion of congressional investigations into the “harsh methods” that the CIA has used with a small group of captured terrorists, Reuters reports:
The Democratic-led House of Representatives voted on Thursday to outlaw harsh interrogation methods, such as simulated drowning, that the CIA has used against suspected terrorists.

On a 222-199 vote, the House approved a measure to require intelligence agents to comply with the Army Field Manual, which meets the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of war prisoners and prohibits torture.

Of course, terrorists are not covered by the Geneva conventions, but I suppose that’s a legal quibble.

CIA operatives have testified that these “harsh measures” have succeeded in uncovering information from al Qaeda and other terrorists and that the information has allowed the US to disrupt terrorist attacks again US citizens. But no matter.

It appears that the members voting in favor have seized a moral plateau—an imaginary place where moral certitude reigns and fanatic killers are treated oh so gently. Recognize that those few people who have been subjected to “harsh measures” have sworn to kill us. The same people, if given the opportunity, would murder every one of the 222 members of congress who voted in favor of the measure and every one of the 199 who voted against it.

It’s interesting that on this subject, the Dems, particularly, live in a black and white world — you know, the one they roundly condemn when binary options are suggested by the Bush administration. On the moral plateau, “harsh measures” are always wrong—no matter what the consequences. There’s no gray area, no situation when waterboarding, for example, might be a necessary practice. No situation in which a “ticking bomb” scenario might cause us to do what has to be done. No situation when thousands might die because a CIA operative became worried that he or she might be indicted on felony charges for doing what was right in the circumstances.

Mark Davis, discusses the debate on waterboarding, makes the following comment:
We have heard much from the portion of America that grows queasy at the thought of tough treatment for al-Qaeda detainees. But I'll share what makes me queasy: my countrymen in tattered clothes perched at windows a thousand feet high against the Manhattan skyline, their lungs burning with jet fuel, making the decision to jump to their deaths because it was a better fate than what awaited them if they did not.

So, for just a moment, let’s climb off the moral plateau and return to the real, messy, harsh, ambiguous world in which we live.

It’s September 10, 2001. You, a CIA agent, have captured someone who, you’re told, knows of an imminent attack that’s going to occur in the US. But you would never consider using harsh measures, so you ask for the information nicely and get nothing. Later that day, corroborating information is obtained. You learn that the captive terrorist knows about the attack, but you need specifics.

But harsh measures are a crime, you think. Still, you pass it up the chain of command. Maybe waterboarding might work, maybe a superior might okay it. But your boss and his boss and his boss all fear the consequences, the congressional inquiries, the indictments—all career-ending events. So they all delay or say no.

And then, the next day you watch as your countrymen jump to their deaths as the twin towers fall. Could you live with yourself? Could you justify staying on the moral plateau? I wonder.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How To

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett have written an article in the NYT that is representative of the position of those who, in light of the recent NIE, believe that Iran is a state that we can negotiate into a reasonable region power. The Leveretts tell us “How to Defuse Iran” , providing a cookbook approach that is predicated, of course, on US actions that guarantee that we never use force and promise not to work to overthrow the country's fascist regime. Sounds good. After all, there’s no reason to believe that Mahmoud Amadinejad and the Mullahs are anything but reasonable people. Is there?

The Leveretts begin their “How to” with the following suggestion:
First, as part of an understanding addressing all issues of concern to the two parties, Washington would promise that it would not use force to change Iran’s borders or form of government. (This would be a big shift: before the Bush administration signed on to a European-drafted incentives “package” for multilateral negotiations over Iran’s nuclear activities last spring, it insisted that all language addressing Iran’s security interests be removed.)

So, the first thing we do is “promise” Iran that regardless of the actions it takes, we will not use force? This suggestion gives new meaning to the word “naïve.” Iran has used force against the US (via its many proxies) for the past 30 years. As I write this, Iran’s weapons, advisors, and money are causing the deaths of US military personnel. But no matter, if we remove the threat of force, the Leveretts are certain they’ll play nice.

Without the threat of force, Iran has a variety of options that will not serve US interests. Certainly, it will enter into negotiations (much like it has already done with the EU for the past 3 years) and at the same time support Hezballah in Lebanon, continue to enrich Uranium, call for the destruction of Israel, provide funding for Hamas, and cause continuing mischief in Iraq. What Iran needs is time, and that’s what they’ll get. Iran will delay and obfuscate. It will not change. I have to wonder if the Leveretts understand the meaning of “taqiyya”.

Next, assuming that American concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities, provision of military equipment and training to terrorist organizations, and opposition to a negotiated Arab-Israeli settlement were satisfactorily addressed, Washington would also pledge to end unilateral sanctions against Iran, re-establish diplomatic relations and terminate Tehran’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

What makes the Leveretts believe that such an assumption is realistic? Do we take Iran at its word that such activities have ceased? Do we use the IAEA to “verify” compliance – the same IAEA that has tried to accomplish this for 5 or more years?

More importantly, what if Iran does not play nice? What if they continue all of the things that the Leveretts “assume” they’ll stop? We can't use force – we promised we wouldn’t. By limiting our options, we provide Iran with an incentive not to change.

What would Iran have to concede? It would first have to carry out measures — negotiated with the United States, other major powers and the International Atomic Energy Agency — definitively addressing the proliferation risks posed by its nuclear activities. This would include disclosing all information relating to its atomic program, past and present, now being sought by the atomic energy agency, and agreeing to an intrusive inspections regime of any fuel cycle activities on Iranian soil.

But the Euros have been asking for just these “concessions” for the past three years. Iran has offering n-o-t-h-i-n-g to indicate that they’re willing to concede anything. But the Leveretts blithely assume that they’ll suddenly change their position if we make them less nervous about our intentions. Interestingly, the Leveretts are concerned about our naming Iran as a member of the “axis of evil” but are completely unconcerned about their continuing official statements suggesting “death to America.” I’m sure that Mahmoud Amadinejad and the Mullahs don’t really mean that, aren’t you?

Tehran would also have to issue a statement supporting a just and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on current United Nations Security Council resolutions. This statement would affirm the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as expressed in the 2002 Security Council resolution, and also the Arab League’s commitment to normalized relations with Israel after it has negotiated peace agreements with the Palestinians and Syria.

Hmmm. So comments suggesting that Israel be “wiped off the map” were, what, a negotiating ploy that will be rapidly abandoned if the US makes nice? Please.

Iran would also have to pledge to stop providing military supplies and training to terrorist organizations and to support the transformation of Hamas and Hezbollah into exclusively political and social-welfare organizations. Iran, in fact, proposed these steps as part of its offer for comprehensive talks that was passed to the Bush administration through Swiss diplomats in 2003. (Today, it’s clear that Hezbollah’s transformation would need to be linked to reform of Lebanon’s so-called democracy to end systematic Shiite under-representation in Parliament.)

I don’t mean to cast aspersions, but the Leveretts need a drug test. Only hallucinogens would cause otherwise rational people to believe that Hamas and Hezbollah can be transformed into exclusively political and social-welfare organizations.

I’m certain that the Leveretts believe what they write, but they suffer from the delusion that all actors in the Middle East are reasonable and will respond to appropriate offers of reconciliation. They appear to forget that there’s a very long history of violence (against us), lies, broken promises, and obfuscation, all woven into an Islamofascist ideology whose cornerstone is “death to America.”

The Leveretts worldview is childlike and worse, extremely dangerous. Given enough time, Iran can become a serious threat to regional stability. Given a bit more time, they can become a threat to world peace. The Leveretts--and all who agree with their position--appear very willing to provide them with that time.

If the Leverett’s recipe is adopted by the next administration, we’ll enter into a never ending period of negotiation. Time will pass, Iran will do what Iran does, and the danger will grow. But not to worry ... we've promised not to use force.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Perverse Solution

It appears that those who are absolutely convinced that humans are the primary cause of global warming, may have inadvertently stumbled upon a perverse solution to the earth’s temperature increase.

The “solution” has its roots elsewhere. Many who have embraced anthropogenic global warming have also embraced the NIE estimate that Iran has terminated its nuclear weapons program, extrapolating a single sentence in the NIE report to surmise that Iran has no nuclear intentions (despite clear factual evidence to the contrary). For that reason they believe the only reasonable strategy is to exclude even the threat of force and enter into “talks” with Iran (Barach Obama suggests we do this at the Presidential level) in hopes of “understanding our adversaries” and convincing them that we can all live together—Christians, Muslims, and Jews—not to mention Hindus, Buddists …

But how are global warming and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons connected? If we do nothing to preempt their efforts, Iran will have a nuclear weapon(s) within 3 to 5 years. And once that happens, long before we’re all submerged by the rising oceans that Al Gore breathlessly predicts, Iran just might initiate an event that will precipitate countervailing climate change –- nuclear winter.

Something tells me that’s not a “solution” that anyone wants – except maybe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad .

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Although I have criticized her positions on a number of occasions, Speaker Nancy Pelosi got it exactly right this week when she muscled an important energy bill past Democratic energy committee chair John Dingell and a host of republican opponents. David Roberts provides a summary:
On Thursday, just over a year after winning the majority, Democrats in the House of Representatives voted through an energy bill that represents a stark departure from the administration's approach. It would raise vehicle fuel efficiency [Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE)] standards for the first time in over 30 years, by 40%, to 35 miles per gallon for both cars and light trucks and SUVs. A renewable energy standard mandates that utilities generate 15% of their power from renewables by 2020. It would set a renewable fuel standard aiming to generate 36 billion gallons of ethanol a year by 2022. A tax package would roll back some $13.5bn in oil industry subsidies and tax breaks to help pay for $21bn worth of investments in clean energy development, mainly in the form of investment tax credits for wind and solar, along with the development and purchase of plug-in hybrid vehicles. And it would raise efficiency standards for appliances and buildings.

In my view the bill is a good first step along the road toward energy independence, but only a good first step. Much, much more needs to be done -- right now! But even this bill will be opposed by many Republicans in the Senate. In addition, President Bush, in what can only be described as an act of shortsightedness that borders on abject stupidity, has promised to veto it. For a man that claims to be concerned about national security, his veto would be the height of hypocrisy.

As I have written many times in this blog, our country’s failure (over both 30 plus years of Democratic and Republican administrations and majorities) to achieve energy independence is the greatest political failure in my lifetime. It represents the politics of entrenched special interests that work against the best interests of our country. It reflects political cowardice and a public that refuses to demand better. It suggests that we are unwilled to accept short term pain to achieve long term health. It is, to be blunt, disgusting.

It’s possible that Nancy Pelosi’s actions on CAFE just might be a harbinger of a new direction. Time will tell.

Friday, December 07, 2007


Ayaan Hersi Ali, a true Moslem hero who is trying, against all odds, to save Islam from the Islamist Extremists who are growing in number and influence across the Moslem world, has written an excellent op-ed in the NYT .

In it she discusses three recent cases in which Sharia law has been applied in ways that should make any thoughtful person regardless of religion recoil in horror:
A 20-year-old woman from Qatif, Saudi Arabia, reported that she had been abducted by several men and repeatedly raped. But judges found the victim herself to be guilty. Her crime is called “mingling”: when she was abducted, she was in a car with a man not related to her by blood or marriage, and in Saudi Arabia, that is illegal. Last month, she was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes with a bamboo cane.

Two hundred lashes are enough to kill a strong man. Women usually receive no more than 30 lashes at a time, which means that for seven weeks the “girl from Qatif,” as she’s usually described in news articles, will dread her next session with Islamic justice. When she is released, her life will certainly never return to normal: already there have been reports that her brother has tried to kill her because her “crime” has tarnished her family’s honor.

We also saw Islamic justice in action in Sudan, when a 54-year-old British teacher named Gillian Gibbons was sentenced to 15 days in jail before the government pardoned her this week; she could have faced 40 lashes. When she began a reading project with her class involving a teddy bear, Ms. Gibbons suggested the children choose a name for it. They chose Muhammad; she let them do it. This was deemed to be blasphemy.

Then there’s Taslima Nasreen, the 45-year-old Bangladeshi writer who bravely defends women’s rights in the Muslim world. Forced to flee Bangladesh, she has been living in India. But Muslim groups there want her expelled, and one has offered 500,000 rupees for her head. In August she was assaulted by Muslim militants in Hyderabad, and in recent weeks she has had to leave Calcutta and then Rajasthan. Taslima Nasreen’s visa expires next year, and she fears she will not be allowed to live in India again.

The politically correct narrative that we hear across the western world is that such cruel and even barbaric behavior has been perpetrated by only a small band of Islamic extremists. That most Moslems are moderates and abhor such behavior. But some of us, including Ms. Ali, have begun to ask why the moderates, who are said to represent the vast majority of Islam, have not risen up against extreme behavior (whether it’s misapplication of Moslem law or terrorist bombings that kill hundreds or thousands of innocents).

For example, the MSM continually misleads the American public by characterizing the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) as a “moderate” group. Yet CAIR remains silent on the cases noted. Maybe that’s because CAIR is a Jihadist front organization with ties to Hamas.

But if CAIR is not moderate, surely there are many moderates to be heard from. Ayaan Hersi Ali comments further:
I wish there were more Islamic moderates. For example, I would welcome some guidance from that famous Muslim theologian of moderation, Tariq Ramadan. But when there is true suffering, real cruelty in the name of Islam, we hear, first, denial from all these organizations that are so concerned about Islam’s image. We hear that violence is not in the Koran, that Islam means peace, that this is a hijacking by extremists and a smear campaign and so on. But the evidence mounts up.

Islamic justice is a proud institution, one to which more than a billion people subscribe, at least in theory, and in the heart of the Islamic world it is the law of the land. But take a look at the verse above [ The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with 100 stripes: Let no compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. (Koran 24:2)]: more compelling even than the order to flog adulterers is the command that the believer show no compassion. It is this order to choose Allah above his sense of conscience and compassion that imprisons the Muslim in a mindset that is archaic and extreme.

If moderate Muslims believe there should be no compassion shown to the girl from Qatif, then what exactly makes them so moderate?

When a “moderate” Muslim’s sense of compassion and conscience collides with matters prescribed by Allah, he should choose compassion. Unless that happens much more widely, a moderate Islam will remain wishful thinking.

Compassion is not 200 lashes. Compassion is not imprisonment for an innocent grade school error. Compassion is not death threats for the written word. Until moderate Moslems themselves begin to say this privately, then publish it widely, then speak it before large audiences, then demand a continuing forum via the MSM, Islam is lost.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


It seems interesting to me that virtually every MSM source and all politicians who were, with hindsight, appalled by intelligence failures before the Iraq war, now appear to embrace the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) “high confidence” estimate that Iran has terminated its nuclear weapons program. It appears that like Bush and Chaney, who used earlier estimates to fit their own political agenda, the MSM and the Left appear now to embrace this NIE because it fits their political agenda. Two wrongs, don’t make it right.

Wretchard of the Belmont Club comments:
There are many reasons to be concerned about recent changes in the NIE estimate, though sadly, few of them have been raised by the politcians. The first is: how could the intelligence community have been so wrong? A revision of this magnitude indicates a blind spot or inadequacy which needs to be addressed. Any manager faced with the prospect of having to revise his balance sheet 180 degrees around would probably ask his accounting department how such a thing could happen. The second question is if the same standards of reliability failed so miserably in detecting what is now regarded as wrong information in the past, then how can we be so sure of it's ability to judge new information now? Think of it: politicians are quite ready to believe as gospel truth statements the diametrical opposite of statements made by the same intelligence agencies. Would they be ready to believe a new estimate that flipped 180 degrees again if newer information became available in a few weeks time? I would, if I had confidence in the process. If not, I'd be looking to fix the process. These are the questions I'm interested in, though like the rest of the public, I'll have to live another 10 years before I read about the explanation in one of Bob Woodward's books. That's where the truth eventually winds up doesn't it? Doesn't it?

The current NIE estimate may be correct (and I hope it is), but given past inaccuracies, an objective observer should recognize that it could also be incorrect.

There is no question or debate that Iran continues to enrich Uranium—3,000 centrifuges don’t lie. When considering a nation’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, it’s the enriched uranium that counts—not a "weapons program" per se. Nuclear weapons can be manufactured relatively quickly once enriched uranium is available (and the enrichment program will provide such material over the mid-term). Weapons manufacture is relatively straightforward. Best estimates indicate that any nation with a reasonable technology base could build an operable weapon within 6 to 12 months, once enough enriched Uranium is available.

But no matter. The NIE provides our leaders with cover. Like most other things in modern American politics, it looks like they’ll just kick the can down the road.

The next President will have to deal with Iran, and all of the negotation in the world will not dissipate the storm that continues to gather in Persia.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Toying with Us

It appears that the Teddy Bear “outrage” has finally come to a conclusion. President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, taking a few moments out from encouraging the murderous Moslem gangs in Darfur, has pardoned Gillian Gibbons, an elementary school teacher who named a teddy bear, Mohammed.

David Warren comments on the events leading up to the pardon:
From the BBC's reports, we read the signs and hear the shouts from that mass rally: "No tolerance." "Execution." "Kill her." "Kill her by firing squad," etc. The paradox is that the idea of "zero tolerance" came from the politically-correct West, just as the idea of "tolerance" came from the civilized West before the era of political correctness.

The British Foreign Office is naturally on the case, and doing what it can to free Mrs Gibbons, and get her out of that murderously dysfunctional country, which anyone of charitable intention (teachers, missionaries, the deliverers of food aid, invited foreign "peacekeeping" troops) enters at his own risk. A country in which slavery is still openly practised, and slave raids against Christians and Animists have been documented. Let us not be diplomatic when speaking of Sudan, or of the vicious government that has created not only the conditions for massacre and rapine, but also, the administrative problems that have followed from these. And which expects the world to solve its problems.

I suspect the Brits groveled at the appropriate moment and expressed regret for this latest “outrage.” They’d argue that it was necessary to ensure the release of Ms. Gibbons.

But when do we in the West push back? When do we say “enough” to the Islamists who manufacture outrage to suit their purposes? How far do we allow the multicultural philosophy (all cultural norms must be respected, even when they turn violent and threaten hard won values in our culture)to govern our actions? How much erosion to our basic freedoms of speech, expression, and religion can we tolerate?

Wretchard of the Belmont Club discusses the path the West is taking:
It's an elementary negotiating tactic for one side to manufacture an intentional grievance in order to use it as a bargaining chip. In this case President Omar al-Bashir made Britain jump through hoops so that he could authorize the release of a teacher six days early for the crime of asking her students to name a teddy bear. Al-Bashir gets something for nothing. It would be ludicrous if it weren't so effective.

There now will follow the ridiculous spectacle of European heads of state, religious leaders, celebrities and parliamentarians tripping all over themselves to express gratitude that his excellency Omar al-Bashir was benevolent enough to save Gibbons from maddened lynch mobs or being flogged within an inch of her life.

How far ahead does the intellectual light of the West shine? Can it see where it is going? Down and down it traipses along "the stairway which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad stairway at the beginning, but after a bit the carpet ends. A little farther on there are only flagstones, and a little farther on still these break beneath your feet ..." Will they care? Will they even notice?

And today, Kes Grey, an author of children’s books in the UK, has unilaterally decided to rename an animal character in one his books so as not to cause offense. The character was named to foster diversity, one of the West's cultural values. But no matter, it might offend, so …

The character’s name? “Mohammed Mole.”

And the stairway narrows as self-censorship slowly erodes our freedoms. I submit that we’ve already gone past the broken flagstones. Now we’re walking on eggshells.